Dark UI Patterns or Things You Are, You Can, but You Shouldn’t Be Doing

Alex, PR manager - April 30, 2015
startup

You would be surprised how many Adware is being installed on a daily basis and the amounts of irritation this causes. I have a few friends that are not as tech-savvy as people working in the IT industry and they all have various toolbars installed with their homepages changer to some Puerto Rican native search engine or whatever and their computing and browsing experience is never the same after every piece of new software they are installing. Hell, I even know several IT guys that suffer from the same issue. How did we end up in this pile of… garbage (you do now this isn’t the word I’ve meant?)?

How dark UI patterns misguide users?

Let’s imagine an average Billy. He loves to hang out with friends, has 150K+ photos on Facebook, all his food is in Instagram and he has created and leads a blog about video games and films lets play videos for YouTube. He surely is an advanced internet user, isn’t he? He should not face any difficulties whilst he downloads the latest version of any software he uses for video-editing, right?

And still, after the download his entire computing and browsing experience has changed. He has 100+ new toolbars displayed, a new default browser, his homepage is a website of an unknown software publisher who’s only achievement was the creation of nobody–in–common–sense–uses me app, version 1.43. Who can Billy complain to? Nobody. Because he has signed a dozen of license and other agreements while his video editor was being downloaded and installed. Is Billy happy? No, he is not.

How did Billy agree to all those terms? That is indeed the dark side of UI that is literally used against humanity. Firstly the website Billy downloaded his software from had a large green button saying ‘download now’ with all capitals, and there was a tiny little link for proper download somewhere beneath it. Do I have to say it was barely noticeable?

And then there was the installation process. Everything started with a choice: should the installation process be custom or express. That is one step of the Wizard we are all used to and are not paying much attention to. Well, Billy should have had, because the Express installation process, which was the recommended one, by the way, and that part was stated loud and clear had a few words that were not as loud. The part where all kinds of additional software will be installed was written in a way nobody would pay attention to.

And this goes even further where license agreements claim admin rights over the computer and this step seems unescapable. There is the large green button saying ‘continue’ and a dim grey one that does not even say ‘skip’, it says ‘cancel’ or something of that sort, making people believe that pressing such a button will end the installation process. And now Billy has all that Adware installed on his PC that actually ruins his entire computing experience.

Why use such trickery?

For all I can say these tricks are used because they work. It’s not that Billy has downloaded some pirate copy of premium software from torrents. Even such companies like Microsoft are using this side of UI to trick users into installing their toolbars and setting Bing as the default search engine. Bing? Seriously? I’d bet eating my shirt on a Sunday morning that Bill uses Google.

However the fact remains the same. Lots of people fall for these tricks. The less tech-savvy ones. But what about Billy? He is in all that stuff on the internet. He even knows how to develop a blog and stuff. Well, internet is full of services now and minor projects or social media do not require vast skills and are basically all about drag-and-drop. While such an approach is unacceptable for business needs simple users love gaining from the mentioned services.

Why should software publishers stop doing this?

Such an approach does not bring more than mere user irritation, People are becoming tired of such trickery and are massively learning on how to avoid Adware. And internet is becoming more and more user-centric every day thanks to efforts from Google, Facebook and other large companies whose business gains from users, not from direct sales. And there will be a breaking point shortly when Adware will seize to exist, where will your marketing strategy be then? Plus such foul methods are terrible for branding and you will definitely loose more users that you may have gained by working on the software in a better manner, rather than just sticking it to good solutions. Try doing things the right way and you will truly be amazed with the results.

×